We need to know a little bit about the Noakhali riots in order to understand them. 1946 was a turbulent time in many subcontinent areas. They were turbulent. They were tense. The British had made promises to the Indian government to declare independence from its prized colony, India. However, there was no clear decision on how the power transfer from the British to India would occur.

The Muslim League was formed on December 30, 1906. They wanted Pakistan to be a separate state for Muslims as soon as they heard India would be free. The Indian National Congress refused to agree. Tension was high in areas that did not have a clear majority of either the Hindus or Muslims. Nobody knew what would happen or whether the country would be divided. People were anxious about the possibility of being on the other side of the border if partition did occur. These tensions were causing periodic and irregular riots at various locations.

Direct Action Day was declared on August 16, 1946. To fulfill their demand for Pakistan, the Muslim League wanted to fight their battle. There were many infuriating speeches. The Great Calcutta Killings, the most violent communal riot in history, followed. While the Calcutta Killings did not affect the majority of Noakhali, violence began in Noakhali on October 10th . Ramganj and Begumganj were all affected in the Noakhali district. The Tipperah district was affected by Hajiganj and Faridganj as well as Chauddagram and Chandpur.

Private military and Muslim National Guards were the attackers, who mostly targeted Bengali Hindus. The Muslim League, who advised their supporters to “take Pakistan by force” if necessary, carried out this operation. Three days after the riots began, enforcers were dispatched to the area. It might have saved thousands of lives if the government had acted sooner. Around 5000 Hindus were murdered, thousands of Hindus were converted by force, temples were destroyed, homes ransacked, and many women were raped.

Mahatma Gandhi went to the areas where riots were occurring to inform them to stop. He also spread his message about non-violence. Although he failed to succeed, his presence calmed many. Gandhiji, in his anger, told Suhrawardy that he was responsible for not only one murder, but for all the lives lost in Bengal, Hindu or Muslim.

After the Noakhali riots, more than 50,000 people were left homeless. Many people fled other areas after being forced to convert and witness the terrible massacres. Calcutta was the destination for many of these refugees. The massacre and conversions ended in November. However, the situation was normalized only after the partition.


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